By Acarya dasa, All-India Padayatra leader
We had been in the Gujarati onion production town of Mahuva for only a few days when on March 24 the Indian government announced the Covid-19 lockdown, whereupon we were forced to stop in a shade by an onion factory. It was dreadful to stay in an open shed alongside a facility that produced such a stench, but we had no option. We prayed to Their Lordships and the next day the government ordered all factories to close, a relief for us padayatris. Staying under a shade was not such a problem for we are used to hardships, we simply continued with mangala-arati, chanting sessions, and evening arati. Some villagers would join us for darshan and also helped us with grains and rice. Life was going on and we were serving our beloved Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar, but the pain in our hearts was that we couldn’t go for sankirtan and book distribution and our oxen were in tears as they couldn’t carry Their Lordships. We just took them for walks to please them.
The Lord arranges our accommodation
We were waiting for the lockdown to finish so that we could restart our padayatra. I was thinking that if it opened up for a few days we would shift to a better place or some padayatris might be able to go to ISKCON temples nearby. As we had no gas cylinders and had daily cooking for twenty-two devotees, we were making cow dung cakes on a wood stove. The resources were falling short, but after twenty days of staying beside the factory the Lord sent us help. On April 15, the day after the government decreed a two-week lockdown extension, we got permission to move to the nearby school of Jnana Manjari vidyapitha. When we heard the name, we were delighted as it sounded like a gurukul. It is a large school with about seventy classrooms. Our pujari, Dhirnayak dasa, made us laugh when he said that at the factory there was no room, just a shade, and now at the school there are so many rooms. It is a good place to see out the emergency, with water and electricity included. Now at least we can read and chant peacefully, as the temperature outside is increasing.
Jayapataka Maharaja’s Vyasa-puja celebrated
The day after our shift we celebrated Jayapataka Maharaja’s Vyasa-puja. We offered bhogas to Maharaja and heard online glorification of him by Lokanath Maharaja and Bhakti Purosottama Maharaja, then one by one all of us glorified Jayapataka Maharaja. This was followed by arati, the singing of Vaishnava bhajans, kirtan and maha-prasad.
Book distribution goes on
We cannot go out but a few people do manage to come for darshan of Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundar. Taking that opportunity, we distributed two Srimad-Bhagavatam sets, one to Dipak bhai, the owner of the onion factory, and another to a person who came for darshan of Their Lordships.